Football.com - everything football

Rose Bowl Primer: Stanford vs. Michigan State

By



Stanford's Pac-12 MVP Tyler Gaffney will be the most important player of this year's Rose Bowl as the Cardinal try to pound through a cement-block Michigan State defense. Photo by George Frey/Getty Images.
Stanford's Pac-12 MVP Tyler Gaffney will be the most important player of this year's Rose Bowl as the Cardinal try to pound through a cement-block Michigan State defense. Photo by George Frey/Getty Images.

100th Rose Bowl Primer: Stanford vs. Michigan State

There will be granddaddy football in The Granddaddy Of Them All. The 100th Rose Bowl will pay tribute to old-school football. Both teams are loaded with talent on defense and have running backs at the center of their offenses.

Michigan State (12-1) jumped from No. 10 to No. 4 one week after beating Ohio State in the Big Ten championship. Stanford (11-2) had marquee wins against Oregon, UCLA and Arizona team, yet had two disappointing losses to Utah and USC. Its expectation was to compete for a national championship and it’ll settle for the Rose Bowl.

Both teams have similar game plans with surprisingly similar players, all the more reason for fierce competition. This game will be physical; there will be blood on the field by the end of the game.

Michigan State

Motivation: That chip on their shoulder. If you take a look at MSU’s schedule, it did not beat any ranked opponents outside of the Big Ten. The conference as a whole is perceived as weak, though Ohio State’s ranking may have been inflated. Big Ten teams have hidden within conference this year, and the Spartans have gone untested. MSU will be out to prove the Big Ten belongs in the Rose Bowl and their only loss (Notre Dame) was a fluke.

If You’ve Never Seen Them: The team went 7-6 last season under Mark Dantonio, but turned their program around in '13. The Spartans relied heavily on its defense and run game this season. Running back Jeremy Langford runs around, over and through defenders. Quarterback Connor Cook spreads the ball to wide receivers and manages the football game. He puts the game in the defense's hands and it wins football games. Their leader Darqueze Dennard is the best cornerback in college football.

Weakness: Two-time team captain Max Bullough has been suspended for a team violation, which leaves the middle of the defense in uncertainty. Likely replacement Kyler Elsworth has 10 tackles. His pre-snap leadership pales in comparison to Bullough’s. Bullough is a big reason MSU is fourth in points allowed this season.

Stanford

Motivation: Legacy. The same motley crew runs college football almost every year. Stanford has emerged in a way that history shows is unsustainable. With David Shaw at the helm, however, Stanford could be a power for years to come. A second consecutive Rowl Bowl win might galvanize the program.

If You’ve Never Seen Them: Stanford plays team football. The Cardinal emphasize maturity at every position group, and as a result, the team has few weaknesses. Their strength is their offensive line. Veterans David Yankey and Cam Fleming are the biggest reasons why both Tyler Gaffney and Kevin Hogan have had great success. On the other side of the ball, Trent Murphy and Shayne Skov control the line of scrimmage. They are the best linebacker duo in college football. Murphy is the premier pass rusher with 12 sacks with and Skov the perfect run stuffer with 91 tackles. However, they have no issue swapping roles.

Weakness: When Stanford was behind at half, it lost. If Michigan State can find a way to get ahead at half, even by a field goal, then it will dramatically improve its chances of winning. Stanford may not be made for comebacks, but it never gets frazzled with the lead. It puts away close games routinely. MSU better get ahead quick, otherwise it will run the risk of not seeing the ball in the second half. Stanford has a habit of playing takeaway, and it is the best in the nation at it.

Las Vegas Hilton Line: Stanford -6.5.